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Defining Disability

A disabled person is defined in the Equality Act 2010 as someone with "A physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities". Long term means likely to last for at least 12 months.

Normal day-to-day activities include mobility, manual dexterity, physical co-ordination, continence, ability to lift, carry and move everyday objects, speech, hearing, eyesight, memory or ability to concentrate, learn or understand, perception of risk or physical danger. This is not an exhaustive list and UCL is committed to helping all staff with a disability, impairment or long-term condition. Progressive conditions such as HIV/AIDS, Cancer and Multiple Sclerosis are covered from the point of diagnosis, regardless of the symptoms.

Employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to physical features of premises and arrangements for employing disabled people.

The definition of disabled does not include people who wear spectacles or contact lenses.

Reasonable Adjustments

What is a reasonable adjustment?

It might be any action that helps to alleviate a substantial disadvantage. Factors to be weighed up in determining reasonableness are:

  • how effective the adjustment is in preventing the disadvantage
  • how practical it is
  • the cost of making the adjustment
  • the potential disruption caused
  • the time, effort and resources involved
  • amount of resources already spent on making other adjustments
  • the availability of financial or other help

Examples of reasonable adjustments which should be considered

  • Making adjustments to premises - this could include structural or physical changes such as widening a doorway, or moving furniture for a wheelchair user
  • Acquiring or modifying equipment, electronic or other materials, provision of specialist aids and adaptations - for example, providing a specially adapted keyboard for a visually impaired person or someone with arthritis. However, there is no requirement to provide or modify equipment for personal purposes unconnected with work, such as providing a wheelchair if a person needs one in any event but does not have one.
  • Additional support and /or help with personal care
  • Allowing the disabled person to be absent during working hours for rehabilitation, assessment or treatment - for example, to attend physiotherapy or group therapy or to undertake employment rehabilitation
  • Allocating some of the disabled person's duties to another person - for example, if a job occasionally involves taking files to another floor, this task could be transferred away from someone with restrictions to their mobility
  • Altering the disabled person's working hours - for example, allowing the disabled person to work flexible hours to enable additional breaks to overcome fatigue or changing the disabled person's hours to fit in with the availability of a carer or driver
  • Providing additional services such as a reader, or sign language interpreter, or materials in Braille
  • Training staff to work with disabled people and to provide appropriate adjustments.
  • Giving the disabled person, or arranging for him/her to be given training - this could be training in the use of particular pieces of equipment unique to the disabled person, or training appropriate for all employees but which needs altering because of the disability, or to find new ways of the disabled person using existing, proven skills
  • Organising a gradual re-entry to the job to rebuild confidence and check adjustments are effective - the Occupational Health Service provides advice on this
  • Transferring the disabled person to fill an existing vacancy - if an employee becomes disabled, or has a disability which worsens, so he or she cannot carry on with his or her current role, and there is no reasonable adjustment which would enable him or her to do so, then the disabled person should be considered for any suitable alternative posts which are available
  • Assigning the disabled person to a different place of work - for example, moving the person to other premises, if this possible/appropriate.

Advice on what type of adjustments would make a significant difference should be sought from UCL's Occupational Health Service (OHS), in consultation with the disabled employee. It is for the manager to then decide in consultation with the HR Consultancy Team, whether the adjustments recommended by the OHS are reasonable to implement within that particular workplace and if not, whether there is an alternative role within the department or UCL. HR will gather expertise on reasonable adjustments and advise managers accordingly.


Access to Work


Budget for reasonable adjustments




Last updated: 21st July 2015